God's Creatures Ministry
The Only Diet for a Peacemaker Is a Vegetarian Diet
the National Catholic Reporter
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week to speak at the National Convention of
Unitarian Universalists, I met my old friend Bruce Friedrich. We spent eight
memorable months together in a tiny jail cell, along with Philip Berrigan,
for our 1993 Plowshares disarmament action. A former Catholic Worker, Bruce
is now one of the leaders of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals. He gave a brilliant workshop on the importance of becoming a
vegetarian, something I urge everyone to consider.
Animals have feelings, they suffer; they have needs and desires. They were created by God to raise their families and breath fresh air; and if chickens to peck in the grass, if pigs to root in the soil. Todayıs farms donıt let them do anything God designed them to do. Animal scientists attest that farm animals have personalities and interests, that chickens and pigs are smarter than dogs and cats.
Animals figure in the Gospels. They brim with lovely, respectful images of animals. Clearly Jesus was familiar with animals, and cared for them, as he urged us to look at the birds of the air or be his sheep. He even identified himself as ³a mother hen who longs to gather us under her wings.²
And animals figure in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah 11, a vision of reconciled creation, dreams of a day when ³the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them. The cow and the beast shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest. The lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobraıs den and the child lay his hand on the adderıs lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the God of peace, as water covers the sea.² (Isaiah 11:1-9)
A vision of a nonviolent world, all creatures nonviolent, children safely at play with them, and no violence anywhere. That is the peaceful vision of creation that we are called to pursue in every aspect of our lives, from the jobs we hold, to our use of gasoline and alternative energies, to what we eat and wear, say and do.
I admire the Bibleıs greatest vegetarian, Daniel, the nonviolent resister who refused to defile himself by eating the kingıs meat. He and three friends became healthier than anyone else through their vegetarian diet. And they excelled in wisdom, for ³God rewards them with knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom.²
In his workshop at the Unitarian Universalists convention, Bruce added another beautiful image, the Garden of Eden. The Bible opens with a vision of paradise where God, animals, and humans recreate in peace together. Clearly, the Bible calls us to return to that paradise.
And Bruce reminded us that from the beginning we are directed to be vegetarians. Genesis 1:29 says, ³See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food.²
Biblical images and justice issues aside, there are medical reasons to stop eating meat. Vegetarian diets help keep our weight down, support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including the U.S.ıs three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer and strokes.
Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn both have 100 percent success in preventing and reversing heart disease using a vegan diet. Meanwhile, Dr. T. Colin Campbell writes that one of the leading causes of human cancer is animal protein. More, vegetarians are also less prone to developing adult-onset diabetes. And then we have to contend with the spread of Mad Cow disease and Avian influenza. One could almost argue that the human body is not designed for meat-eating.
But for me being vegetarian boils down to peacemaking. If you want to be a peacemaker, Bruce said, reflecting the sentiments of Leo Tolstoy, you will want to eat as peaceful a diet as possible. ³Vegetarianism,² Tolstoy wrote, ³is the taproot of humanitarianism.² Other great humanitarians like Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer and Thich Nhat Hanh agree. The only diet for a peacemaker is a vegetarian diet.
³Not to hurt our humble brethren, the animals,² St. Francis of Assisi said, ³is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it. If you have people who will exclude any of Godıs creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,² he continued, ³you will have people who will deal likewise with other people.²
So it was good to visit with my friend Bruce, and hear once again the wisdom of vegetarianism. Itıs a key ingredient in the new life of peace, compassion and nonviolence.
Johnıs autobiography, A Persistent Peace, (with a foreword by Martin Sheen), is available Aug. 1. See also: www.persistentpeace.com. Johnıs pamphlet ³Christianity and Vegetarianism² can be read online at www.peta.org or free copies of the pamphlet or a free CD of John reading the pamphlet can be ordered by sending an email to VegInfo@peta.org. You can listen to or download John reading the pamphlet at www.ChristianVeg.com. See also: www.johndear.org.
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God's Creatures Ministry is committed to spreading God's compassion to all He has made based on The Scriptures. Although we are a Christian Ministry, we encourage all to have their own animal welfare committee in their community. We extend our resources to those who would like to learn more or begin their own God's Creatures Ministry as an extension of us. God created us to have a vegetarian diet and commissioned us to protect His animals. Instead, we have exploited them for our entertainment, fashion, appetite and useless, torturous research. These creatures have the right to live as they were created to live. Because we live IN this world, but are not OF this world, we strive to bring God's mercy and justice to all. We live in God's Kingdom now where Jesus, The Sacrificial Lamb, The Prince of Peace, The Lion of Judah reigns. We look forward to that day when all of creation will be 'set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:21) where a little child will lead and guide God's creatures (see Isaiah 11:5-9).
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